UW-Madison Takes Important Step Towards LGTB Inclusivity

Published in The Cap Times, September 2nd, 2013

College presents a lot of choices. Pick your classes. Pick your friends. Pick your name.

The last option is newly available to UW-Madison students this fall. While the practice of reinvention with the help of a fake identification card has happened on college campuses before, this is the first time Wisconsin students will have the option of officially renaming themselves.

Students can opt out of what’s on their birth certificate and pick a first or middle name — or both — they’d prefer to be called. Welcome to the preferred names policy.

“Many people don’t realize how often and in how many places one’s name appears,” said Lori Berquam, dean of students, in a statement. “A system that allows a person to be called by the name that they prefer makes sense and benefits our students and communities. The use and integration of preferred names across the university’s system furthers our commitment to create a UW that is inclusive of all people.”

While it may be tempting to toy with the policy — imagine a class list with Napoleon Dynamite, Buffy Summers and Carlos Danger — the policy has the serious aim of making students, especially international or minority students with difficult-to-pronounce names, more comfortable.

It arose last school year and was developed by a group including the LGBT Campus Center, the dean of students, the registrar and the student government.

Once students register under a new name, they’ll have the option of “hiding” their legal name from the directory on wisc.edu. Some official documents — financial aid forms, payroll, transcripts, diplomas — will still carry only the legal name. For more, visit registrar.wisc.edu/preferred_name.htm.

Written by Dan Simmons, The Cap Times. "On Campus: UW-Madison lets students pick a new name"